By Jan Dehn, Ashmore Group

As the Fed prepares to hike rates in 2015, the window of opportunity presented by hyper-easy monetary policies for developed economies to undertake deeper fundamental reforms is rapidly closing.

So far, hardly any progress has been made. President Obama’s tenure has not seen the country’s economic problems solved. US trend growth has halved since the 1960s, while the debt stock has doubled to more than 350 per cent of GDP (not counting the further 300 per cent of GDP in unfunded social care liabilities). Europe and Japan recently re-engaged in QE-type stimuli to defend their fundamentally challenged economies from the effects of higher US rates in the future. Read more

By Arthur Bastings of Millicom

Africa watchers frequently comment on how technological innovation on the continent is leap-frogging more developed markets. But now the market is more competitive than ever and companies have to look ahead to anticipate consumer needs and stay relevant. What’s next for Africa’s digital and mobile revolution? Read more

“They’re coming up every morning, just like churches,” Peter Kari, a father of two living in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, says of the private schools mushrooming in his neighbourhood. “They die as they’re being born. You can wake up one morning and see a tin shack. The other night it was a pub. Today, it’s a school.”

A ride down one of the main roads in Kawangware offers evidence for Kari’s claim. Within five kilometres, there are at least fifteen visible signs for private schools, with names like ‘Brightest Star,’ ‘Top Shine,’ ‘Springs of Wisdom,’ and one (see photo) unfortunately misspelt ‘Havard.’ Read more

By Tony Volpon of Nomura Securities

The Brazilian economy is in a perilous state as it enters 2015. Economic growth is flirting with an outright recession this year. Inflation is oscillating around the upper bound of the inflation target. Fiscal accounts are showing a primary deficit, and measures of indebtedness are rising. The current account deficit is also rising and the country may see a trade deficit in 2014.

External conditions are unlikely to improve in 2015. Brazil was one of the big winners from the Chinese-driven commodity boom, so it is not surprising that many of the problems we see today began with the fall in the country’s terms of trade that began in 2011. Whatever the inadequacies of the policy response, the government does have a point when it argues that external conditions have been a big part of the slower growth seen since 2011. Read more

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By Saurabh Mukherjea of Ambit Capital

As I finish my two-week year-end trip to meet our western clients (around 40 of them), it is obvious that enthusiasm regarding investing in India is at record highs. Over the past fortnight, I have met at least 10 western-hemisphere-based funds that have either just started investing in India or have applied to the Indian securities regulator for Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) status (which allows them to access the Indian stockmarket directly). Even more interestingly, half a dozen of the clients I met have moved to larger, better-appointed offices in money centres like London, New York, Zurich and San Francisco. Read more

As if South Sudan hasn’t enough to contend with, now it has the reprove of the usually buttoned-up IMF. Following a review of the oil-dependent economy, the IMF outlines the “acute challenges” facing the new country, which started tearing itself apart in a civil war just three years after achieving hard-won independence from the Khartoum regime to the north.

In the first Article IV Consultation with South Sudan since the country became an IMF member in April 2012 – jargon for the IMF’s overarching macroeconomic assessment – the Fund paints a sorry state for the country with the highest per capita income in the region bar Kenya. Read more

Timothy AshBy Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

This time last year I was asked to contribute an article for beyondbrics on the outlook for 2014, and I chose Ukraine (see Hello 2014: Ukraine’s crisis may run and run, December 20, 2014). That post turned out to be prescient, although even I could never have imagined the remarkable turn of events in that country this year.

For 2015 I think Ukraine will remain in the headlines, but its future is likely at least partially to be determined by events in its eastern neighbour, Russia. The new reform administration in Kiev can succeed, if Moscow gives it some breathing space and scales back its own direct intervention in Ukraine. Read more

By Mohamed El-Erian

One of the main challenges facing emerging countries in 2015 will be dealing with increased economic and policy “divergence” within the advanced world. It is a challenge that will widen the gap between well- and poorly-managed economies. It is also one that will tax even the best-run economies. In turn, their response will influence the prospects for the advanced world. Read more

It’s a few minutes into Marion Akinyi Onginjo’s social studies lesson at Bridge International Academy Gicagi in Nairobi and the class 4 teacher is being drowned out by loud cheers next door.

Bridge International Academy Gicagi, Nairobi. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman

Class 4 finally gets its chance to make some noise when one student, Margaret, correctly answers a question about subsistence crops. After Onginjo tells the class, “let’s give Margaret the cowboy cheer,” they stand up, spin imaginary lassoes in the girl’s direction and yell, “One, two, three, four, five, yee-hah.” Read more

In the long-running battle between contagion and differentiation in emerging markets, contagion currently has the upper hand. That’s hardly surprising when you look at the size of the shock coming out of Russia and the failure of Monday night’s 650 basis point interest rate rise to deal with it. Nothing on this scale has been seen since 1998.

Rouble per US dollar, year to date. Source: Thomson Reuters

But contagion is not absolute and some EM currencies are bucking this month’s sharp falls, at least for now. Below, we present charts that show how the big EM currencies are faring in these times of extreme stress. Read more

At the entrance to Shomaa Impressive School, a compound of 11 classrooms built from thin wooden boards in the Lagos slum of Makoko, prospective parents are greeted with a banner showing four children in graduation gowns and the motto “Raising future professionals”. Just as the message is crafted to appeal to the aspirational market traders and fish sellers who send their children to the nursery and primary school, the daily tuition fees averaging less than $1 a day are also tailored to their modest budgets.

Schools like Shomaa, which has around 100 students, are contributing to a boom in private education in Lagos and other cities in Africa.

A pupil at Shomaa Impressive School, Makoko, Lagos. Photo: Tosin Sulaiman

 Read more

By Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia

Serbia recently began its accession talks with the EU and is firmly dedicated to its European path. This is a blessing to a country like Serbia, since its geographic position places us at a key strategic juncture between Europe and the Orient – and this role is becoming ever more prominent.

The first character in the Chinese words for Serbia and Serbian is pronounced sai. It translates as ‘place of strategic importance’. As Chinese characters so often do, it offers a remarkably concise and meaningful description of Serbia’s relationship with China and the world more broadly. Read more

This month, the FT interviewed a senior executive at Uber in India about the US taxi-hailing company’s plans for rapid expansion in the country. But later that week, a 25 year-old woman said she had been raped by her Uber driver in New Delhi. The government banned the service from operating in the capital and asked state governments to ban all unregistered web-based taxi services.

Swept away by its bold ambitions, it seems Uber has fallen foul of local circumstances in its rush to recruit new drivers. The company declined to discuss this and related issues followed the alleged rape. But are Indian taxi services any more cautious in selecting their drivers? And assuming Uber gets past the rape case, can it go on to succeed in India? Read more

With only a couple of weeks left in the year, Brazil watches are still revising downward their view on GDP growth for 2014. The central bank’s latest weekly survey of about 100 market economists has GDP growth coming in at a feeble 0.16 per cent this year, down from 0.18 per cent a week ago and 0.21 per cent a month ago. The consensus for 2015 is also sliding: just 0.69 per cent growth is expected in this week’s report, down from 0.73 per cent last week and 0.8 per cent a month ago.

Those looking for a silver lining to this darkening cloud may argue that it reflects a conviction among analysts that Brazil’s new economics team under Joaquim Levy at the finance ministry (pictured above) is serious about reining in the public deficit and that this, while positive in the long term, will dampen growth in the interim. Read more

By Jukka Pihlman of Standard Chartered Bank

The Chinese currency’s path to internationalisation has been stellar so far but something may happen next year that could propel the renminbi (RMB) into the currency stratosphere.

The IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) – the IMF’s ‘virtual currency’ based on a basket of other currencies reviewed every five years – rarely warrant much excitement. But if the RMB gets included in 2015, alongside the dollar, euro, pound and yen, it could boost the Chinese currency’s fortunes overnight. Read more